Have you ever heard of the European Congress on Obesity (ECO)? Well, neither had I until today. I found this in the reader here at WordPress and I read the text, because I thought this would be interesting, both as a woman, and as someone with an interest in obesity and food-related issues.

So, the results of this study were supposed to be presented on the first day of the 25th ECO last week. As of now, I haven’t managed to actually find the presentation in the programme, but I will keep looking for it. Until then, I will restrict my remarks to the media coverage.

From the title I could tell that it was not going to change the world, but I thought there might be some new perspective, new findings or a new interpretation of data. Instead, please sit down for the dramatic findings: overweight and obese women are more likely to develop obesity-related cancers. Mind-blowing, right? Who would have thought??? It is not yet known how the correlation works, as in does obesity cause these cancers or are women with those cancers more likely to become obese as well? But nonetheless, it was worth the time and money spent on the study to “discover” that obesity-related cancers are, well, related to obesity.

Two American obesity experts also weighed in to applaud the need to study obesity in relation to cancer, not just diabetes and heart disease. They did not find the results surprising. But I am curious: does the study, and the presentation, talk about cancers in general or obesity-related cancers? If you skip the “obesity-related” bit, there is not so much wrong with it, though there is still nothing ground-breaking. I can’t say for sure until I find the text, but the health news site does give a quote:

“maintaining stable weight in middle adulthood … as well as avoiding excess body weight are both of importance for prevention of several obesity-related cancers in women,” the researchers said.

Whether this is from the embargoed press releases or the actual presentation, I don’t know. But the best case scenario for this study is that ECO and/or health news outlets misrepresent the science. They present it in such a way that it is almost devoid of meaning, and that is what the public hears. And shares and blogs and likes, without really looking into it or understanding it.

The worst case scenario is that the research itself is meaningless and someone is spending time and money to produce tautologies that do not advance either scientific research or knowledge. For us, the public, I am not sure which one is worse.

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